Friday, August 22, 2008

Brewing Up Some . . . Veggies?

If you still have a Starbucks in your neighborhood, and you've been working on your green thumb, you might want to stop in for a bit of an unusual to-go item -- used coffee grounds.

Spent coffee grounds aren't just a great addition to your compost pile, they also make a nutritious and, oddly enough, lingeringly fragrant garden mulch. The benefits of using grounds as a mulch, beyond the typical moisure-retentive and soil cooling effects of other mulches, are the rapid release of nutrients (most notably nitrogen, but also calcium, magnesium and potassium) and slug and snail deterrence.

Mulching with grounds will noticeably perk up any of your sulky or neglected plants and help prevent late blight in tomatoes.

Starbucks policy is to give "customers*" grounds for free on a first come-first served basis. When I asked around at locally owned (non-Starbucks) coffee shops, I quickly found out that most had pre-arrangements with other gardeners.

If the Starbucks store in your area does not already pre-package their grounds for your use, the baristas will give you their trash bags full of grounds. These bags do not contain any wastes that are not compostable and typically only consist of grounds. After making several requests for used grounds, the Starbucks we visit most regularly has begun to bag them in the nifty packaging pictured above. Honestly, I don't mind the grounds in a trash bag (no unecessary bags or extra labor), but if it helps get the message out to other customers and gardeners, then I am willing to cope with the spiffy packaging.

* I have never been asked to purchase anything in order to take away the spent grounds. After all, we gardeners are doing them a service by recycling the grounds and greening their image. It's a win-win for everyone.

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